the man behind the fips

Charles E. Goad

Charles Edward Goad (1848–1910) was a cartographer and civil engineer, most famous for his series of insurance maps, notably for Canada and the United Kingdom, but also covering countries as diverse as Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, the West Indies, Mexico, Venezuela and Chile.

He was born in 1848 in Surrey, the second son of plumber Charles Goad and his wife, Caroline Ann (née Vogel). Locally educated, Goad jnr became an associate of arts of the newly created University of Oxford local examinations board before moving to Canada in 1869 where he was employed as a railway engineer.

His series of fire insurance plans for cities in Canada and Great Britain came about when he realised that there was a demand for street maps and plans explaining the purpose of buildings (i.e. commercial, residential, storage) and the physical context of those buildings’ environments and construction for insurance claims, to help limit companies losses in the event of a fire.

He founded the Charles E. Goad Company in Montreal in 1875, and began mapping streets and identifying the nature of the buildings’ construction and role. In 1881 he started a magazine, The Insurance Society, providing statistics highlighting the profits made by companies utilising his fire insurance plans, leading to a much bigger take-up of his plans, and extending his reach to over 1300 places in Canada.

He then rolled out the same model in London, Britain, leading onto other towns and cities in the UK.  The large-scale fire insurance plans combined an attractive colour system and iconic symbology that made the plans very distinctive, which helped lead to an international pick-up.

A canny business man, Goad was adept at self-promotion and not adverse to using slightly underhand tactics to develop his business interests:

“Letters between Goad and Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, are revealing. In 1886 Stoker, then manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, refused access to a Goad surveyor intent upon undertaking internal surveys and drawings of the Lyceum. Goad wrote immediately threatening the possibility of ‘exorbitant insurance premiums’. Stoker quickly acquiesced and allowed the detailed internal inspection to proceed.”
Gwyn Rowley, ODNB

Charles E. Goad married Caroline Madeleine of Montreal in 1877, and they had three sons and one daughter. Goad was a renowned member of numerous institutions and societies, including the American and Canadian Societies of Civil Engineers, the London Chamber of Commerce and the Engineers’ Club of New York.

His enthusiasm for his adopted country of Canada led to his development of Toronto Island, draining the island’s swamps and creating the park on the island that is now one of the defining features of the city.

Charles E. Goad died in 10 June 1910 and was buried at the Mount Pleasant cemetery in Toronto. The family continued to run the fire insurance plan business from London, and the business ran until 1974.